Kids & Family

Man in Wheelchair Volunteers as Boys' Running Coach

When he found out about the opportunity, he didn't hesitate to take it - despite his disability.


The fact that George Martel can't use his legs hasn't stopped him from getting where he wants to go in life. For instance, the 26-year-old recently signed on as a volunteer for the Charlotte-based Let Me Run program, an organization that encourages elementary and middle-school aged boys to engage in physical activities, such as running.

When Martel was approached by Jay Seago, the organization's director, about the opportunity he admitted that he might not be the best person for the job. Martel has a form of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia, a nerve condition that affects the muscles and coordination in his legs.

"I was even making jokes about it with Jay when I first met him," Martel told The Charlotte Observer . "I was like, 'Yeah, nobody's gonna believe that I'm gonna be able to teach them how to run."

Seago, however, saw things differently.

"I was pumped up about it," he said. "Honestly, I think anybody can motivate kids. It doesn't matter your physical ability. It's your ability to get across to them. I mean, we have kids in our program each year that are in wheelchairs, why not have a coach that's in a wheelchair as well?"

Martel soon learned that being a leader has less to do with physical capability and more about the importance of teamwork, building strong self-esteem and practicing a healthy, active lifestyle.

When Martel attended the Henry Viscardi School for severely disabled children in Albertson, NY, he was known as "the wheelchair Kobe" on the school's adaptive basketball team. In his first (and only) season, he led the team to a league championship.

His experience at Henry Viscardi gave him a much-needed confidence boost, and he continued on to attend Hofstra University on Long Island in 2011. Due to health problems and financial hardships, along with the fact that Hofstra's campus wasn't exactly wheelchair-friendly, Martel dropped out before finishing his freshman year.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and left the apartment building he lived in with his mother in poor condition. They decided to go for a "fresh start" and moved to Charlotte, NC to be closer to extended family and friends.

After setting into his new home, Martel got back on a college track at CPCC and is planning to pursue a career in social work. As part of his studies, he's required to complete a volunteer requirement in his community, which led him to Let Me Run.

When asked how he felt about his first day as the boy's coach, his response was simple, but powerful.

"I'm not the one that's helpless. I can be the one that's helpful." - Martel George

To view the original story, click here .

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(Source: images The Charlotte Observer )

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